Is curbing prostitution on demand side the answer?
Published On February 13, 2014 » 3893 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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“I MIGHT be completely tired when I come home after a 10-hour night shift, but my
10-year-old child doesn’t know the kind of work I do in the night.
“I could love to spend quality time at night and day with my child who I leave with my younger sister but I am completely tired.
“There is no option because I have to ensure there is food in the house.”
These are sentiments of Rosemary Banda (not real name) a commercial sex worker after she was asked about how she feels to be engaged in this kind of a job.
However, prostitution is very interesting at the same time disheartening when you watch or listen to the stories of some women who have ventured into this business because of various reasons.
Obviously, not everyone who has entered this ‘profession’ is a victim of circumstances.
There are some women who are somewhat addicted to the excitement and thrills of night life that it has become part of their lives.
Others are purely driven by money like Rosemary usually found at a popular joint in Lusaka’s Libala area who admitted that she was a professional prostitute because she did it for money.
She explains that there are many groups of prostitutes which include the ones seen on the streets and those masquerade as business executives who patronise offices and capture unsuspecting clients.
Some women in this group are desperate and they are found standing near hotels and high profile guest houses.
The second group is found in night clubs and usually come as individuals or in groups.
They patronise specific places and immediately notice new faces in that club.
They usually buy themselves the first drink and any bill after that is usually borne by their clients.
They will not just go out with anyone who spends money on them. In fact, they can hang out with as many guys as they can but at the end of the night they will go out with whoever is the highest bidder.
The last group constitutes college girls popularly known as ‘momas’ who go out when an “investor” as they are commonly known calls.
They have many contacts with older men who take them out for drinks and later to a guesthouse.
Those in this group are in it because they want to meet the demands of school fees, college meals, groceries, besides peer pressure is so high in college.
Despite prostitution being visible, the vice is illegal.
However, efforts applied by law enforcement agencies to curb the vice do  not seen to be bearing fruit considering the number of suspected prostitutes that were recently rounded up by the police in Solwezi and Copperbelt.
They were charged with idling and loitering and upon payment of admission fees of not less K100 there were released.
There is a huge possibility that despite spending a night in the police cells and released the following day, the prostitutes were back on the street because the penalty is nothing.
Moreover, there is no specific law that deals with criminlise prostitution.
Tasintha Zambia’s programmes officer Lucy Bwalya, said there was no law criminalising consensual adult sex, instead, prostitutes arrested by the police are charged with idling or loitering.
The Tasintha programme is a grassroots non government organisation, nonprofit making of interdenominational nature which was established in 1992.
The programme focuses on collection and dissemination of information on prostitution in the context of HIV, providing life skills to women and children engaged in prostitution and creating awareness of the issues among policy makers, the youth and the general.
Because the act of prostitution is not criminal, once released from police custody, the women easily fall back into prostitution.
“The law makes it an offence for a person to live off earnings of prostitution but the Penal Code does not define who a prostitute is – this makes it difficult or almost impossible to enforce the law,” she noted.
Ms Bwalya, who identified poverty as a major driver of prostitution, explained that there have been complaints against law enforcement officers such as the Police who also demand sexual favours from the prostitutes.
She is of the view that the one of the long-lasting solutions to addressing the problem of prostitution in Zambia is for Government and civil society organisations to partner in empowering women involved in prostitution with skills to generate income for their sustainability.
She also implored the Government to consider setting aside some funds that could be used as grants to empower reformed prostitutes to venture into entrepreneurship.
Zambia Police Service spokesperson Charity Munganga said there was no specific law in Zambia that criminalises prostitution.
She said laws used in dealing with prostitution was those which relate to crimes against morality.
“These crimes against morality are also not specific to prostitution alone, they are also used when handling cases of defilement and rape,” she said.
Ms Munganga noted that when the women involved in prostitution were arrested by the Police, they were charged with soliciting for immoral purposes, idling or loitering.
On allegations of some police officers demanding sexual favours from prostitutes when arrested, Ms Munganga called on women who have had such experiences to report such matters to police officers-in-charge or police commissioners.
The question that begs answers is whether fighting prostitution without a legal framework and targeting only women is enough?
If the answer is no, why not take a leaf from Sweden where the vice has been contained by targeting the buyers of the service – men.
Dealing with women alone has proved difficult to contain ‘the oldest profession’ there is need to explore the Swedish way.
Swedish Embassy in Zambia’s second secretary for political and economic affairs Emil Liden said in 1999, Sweden enacted a law that forbids the purchase of sexual services  – one that was the first of its kind.
In July 2011, the maximum penalty for purchasing sexual services was raised from six months to one year imprisonment.
Under this law, the sellers of sexual services, mainly women and girls were perceived to be the weaker sex, and in most cases, they are vulnerable people who deserve to be protected from further harm.
Mr Liden said curbing prostitution from the demand side was also a way of promoting equity among women men and women.
The practice of focusing on the sex buyers and neutralising the demand for sexual services to combat prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is what is referred to as the ‘Swedish example’.
According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2008 global report, about 79 per cent of victims of human trafficking are for sexual purposes.
This report also indicates that human trafficking for sexual purposes was organised crime’s fastest growing source of income, with an annual turn over of about US $7 billion; it has also been cited as the third most profitable illegal activity in the world after weapons and drugs.
This legislation was introduced with a view of acting as a deterrent to people purchasing sexual services, and was envisaged to lead a reduction in the number of people involved in street prostitution and new recruits to prostitution.
One of the immediate results indicates that street prostitution has been halved since the prohibition, which can be considered as a direct result the criminalisation of sex services.
The goal of the Swedish law is twofold-to convince people to abstain from committing the crime of buying sex and to establish norms under which no person has the right to sexually exploit another human being.

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